Those were the days

Contributed by Donald Walker (copyright)

The tale from my creel this week, goes back some 50 years. As a lad my family, just like many families in those days, went on day trips to the seaside. We would take sandwiches and flasks of tea to eat on the sands, where we would play cricket and rounders. Others would join in, you don't see much of this friendly togetherness these days. No visit to the seaside would seem right without having a fish from the pier, for me, and tired of the cricket I hurried to the bait shop to buy something that would tempt a fish.

Fishing off the pier wall for a young lad like me was difficult. I was not tall enough to see over it, so I never knew what I'd caught until I reeled it in. One time I had a huge bite and when I started to reel it in, the fish was strong and it was pulling line off my reel faster than I was reeling it in. After a while the fish tired and I started to winch it up the pier wall. The fact that my little fishing rod was bent double told me that I had a good fish on. A man fishing next to me helped me with the last bit over the wall, and then there it was flopping about as they do. It was a plaice. This was the biggest fish I'd ever caught and I'd certainly never had to kill one before, but this was big enough to eat. What to do? Well I took my shoe off, and proceeded to bash it. I could hear some lady onlookers saying I should be stopped, it was cruel. However, I managed it, and next day my mother cooked it for lunch, jolly nice it was too.

On another seaside visit a few weeks later, I fished from the same pier. Following my previous success I was now the proud owner of a much larger fishing rod. With this one I could cast out an enormous distance. After a few casts with no luck, I re-baited my line with the intention of making an even greater distance cast. I swung the bait behind me, carefully judging the swing, then putting all my power behind it, I hurled the tackle into the air. It soared very high and I recall thinking it wouldn't actually go very far, when a seagull swooped and caught my bait mid air. The bird ate the bait and hooked itself. Now I had a problem! Picture me standing there on the harbour wall with this terrified seagull swooping above me. Well I just didn't know what to do, I was just a young lad. What would you have done? By now a large crowd had gathered and advice was coming thick and fast. The bird was tiring and I found I was able to reel it in, but as it got nearer it redoubled it's efforts to escape and the line was screaming off the reel again. Eventually I managed to get the bird within reach and one of the onlookers caught it. The hook was visible and the intention was to cut the line and thread it through the hole, but as the line was cut the bird struggled and escaped before we got the hook out. That put me off pier fishing for a while I can tell you.

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